Former professional poker player Annie Duke once said, "Poker players taught me to understand what a bet really is: a decision about an uncertain future.” This insight extends beyond the felt and has long resonated with me as a guidepost for corporate investments, and, more specifically, to my area of expertise — innovation strategy investments.
Companies, to varying degrees, decide to invest in innovation and new product development, all intent on building a better mousetrap. Some of those investments are more aggressive than others regarding both amount and frequency. But whether organizations are innovating at a slow and steady pace or looking to disrupt the market by Q4, they all are trying to navigate around the aforementioned "uncertain future"—and their goals for doing so are all the same:
- Reduce risk
- Mitigate uncertainty
- Make better choices
And many companies are dumping tons of resources into these investments based on imperfect or incomplete data. But unlike Texas Hold' Em, where you're making educated guesses based on your opponents' betting patterns, physical tells or inexperience, concrete data—from internal and external sources—exists that organizations can use to address risk, uncertainty and choices.
Let's explore ways businesses can harness the power of data to their advantage and leverage it to drastically increase the odds of successful innovation strategies.
Capture all the data
Data analytics capabilities have advanced to where almost any data point can add value. However, it must be appropriately categorized to be of use. Make sure the innovation management system you use can integrate all data sources out of the box. Data must be defined from the moment of ingestion, which determines how it will be used. From there, it's essential to have a system to determine how accurate data is to ensure its quality (you want to avoid a "garbage in, garbage out" scenario).
Once defined and validated, analyzing data and managing innovation becomes a much easier prospect, and organizations can feel confident that they're moving forward with the most accurate information possible.
Deploy a single source of truth
Few things doom innovation investments faster than inaccurate data, yet many organizations don't access data from a single source of truth. In these situations, decision-makers spend countless cycles trying to make the best decision possible, only to have their intentions unravel because of an outdated data set.
By deploying a uniform innovation management system that the entire organization works from, the most accurate data is available for those who need it. That accessibility managing innovation simpler and collaboration capabilities more dynamic.
Further, a single source of truth drastically cuts down the time wasted searching for the latest data—which, for some companies, can be nearly impossible if it's an organization with data silos. It's also important to consider that, in many industries, regulatory demands require to-the-decimal-point accuracy to avoid non-compliance, making a single source of truth even more important.
But be careful to use the right platform. I've seen companies invest a lot of money in project management systems instead of deploying an innovation management platform. While project management platforms are ideal for individual projects, they aren't best suited for addressing the complex scope of holistic product management.
Make data available to all who need it
Data comes from everywhere and in disparate forms, from internal sales numbers and efficiency insight to customer feedback and supply chain changes. And often, that data makes its way to a limited number of departments and is analyzed for limited purposes. And there it stays. Forever. This is a huge mistake.
Ensure that the data can be appropriately analyzed by respective stakeholders, whether they're individuals, team leaders or executives. Every organization has interdependencies that can help determine realistic timelines, market sentiment, resources, etc. But when organizations use multiple siloed innovation management platforms, those interdependencies are, at best, inaccurate or, at worst, never discovered. Either way, it puts your innovation strategy investment at great risk.
Nineteenth-century retailer John Wanamaker is believed to have said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." In the 21st century, we're moving away from guessing games and leaning into hard data that will tell us more than we ever dreamed about how to invest in innovation while reducing risk. But that opportunity is only realized when companies understand the power of data and how to use it to their advantage.
Innovation management isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Learn how Sopheon Accolade can help your organization make the most of its innovation efforts.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.